It’s not all dry adaptations of Shakespeare plays, one-note comedy theatre shows with bad puns for titles, and earnest student versions of musicals at the Edinburgh Festival. Here are two examples of shows which don’t play it safe, for more adventurous theatregoers who prefer raw, challenging performances to catch across August.
THE NEW MYTHOLOGY
Alternative Stories from Scotland Blunt Knife Co., 41 Thistle Street 19th till 27th August
More storytelling than theatre, this wee event series from Blunt Knife Co. spans spoken word, panel discussion, and workshop events. There’s the emphasis on local and marginalised groups –with storytelling and creativity galore.
THIS IS WALES IN EDINBURGH SHOWCASE
Various Locations 3rd till 28th August
The Rest of Our Lives explores performers growing old – a dancer and a clown specifically – and all the mundanity and madness and joy that comes with it. Jo and George offer ‘100 years of life experience between them’, a huge wad of raffle tickets and are ‘armed with a soundtrack of floor fillers’.
There’s also Payday Party – ‘the most glamorous legal political party you will go to’. This show is a cornucopia of real-life stories, told through rap, spoken word, and live music, about what it means to be Welsh and what it means for us all to be living through these times of drastic disparity. Double Drop is the story of Eisteddfod (a traditional Welsh speaking festival) colliding with the ‘communion and transcendence of a rave’ in 90s North Wales. It has grown from a twenty-minute audio created during the pandemic into this! These shows are recipients of funds from Wales Arts International. All shows are distinctly Welsh and globally relatable.
FEELING AFRAID AS IF SOMETHING TERRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN
Summerhall, 7pm, 3rd till 28th August (excluding 4th, 9th, 16th and 23rd)
Samuel Barnett (aka holistic detective Dirk Gently) is making his fringe debut.
This play is presented as a stand-up gig – but all is not as it seems. Is he really going to kill his boyfriend, or is that part of his act? It is a one-man show performance from this wild ride legend of an actor, but the list of talent behind the curtain is just impressive, including the producer of Fleabag.
Pleasance Courtyard, 6.30pm, 3rd till 29th August (excluding 17th)
This show has its origins in a fifteen-minute monologue and has grown and been nurtured by an overwhelming reaction for more.
It follows Andrea, who is dismissed from her job after making an official sexual harrassment complaint – a pertinent play, to say the least. Casual sex and instability come to dominate her life and she must try and find a way out of endless loops of distraction and mess. Writer Sam Potter creates a relatable character for the audience to inhabit, to enable us to interrogate our sex-filled society, to take down taboos, and to ‘speak openly’ about our sex lives.
SURFING THE HOLY LAND
Underbelly Bistro, 2.55pm, 3rd till 29th August (excluding 15th)
Probably the only show exploring feminist empowerment through the lense of surfing, and probably the only show promising ‘ukulele riffs’, this will warm your heart and lengthen your laughter lines. The writer and actor Erin Hunter draws upon her own experiences as an American in Tel Aviv, converting to Judaism for love, and, of course, surfing. She’s a hands-on, headstrong hydra who jumps about, sings, and plays as 12 different ‘colourful characters at breakneck speed’.
Forest Theatre, 1.45pm, 4th till 27th August (excluding 14th and 21st)
Based on a true story and set to a rocking backdrop of live 60s and 70s music, Hippie Shakes is gorgeously immersive gig theatre at its zenith. Once you are a mother you cannot change that label – but what comes with it? Can you embrace it and still be free? This show artfully explores the drug trade of the hippie movement, motherhood, intergenerational cycles of abuse, and more, using what we all use to traverse tumultuous times – storytelling, music, and dark humour.
The Sian Clarke Experience Underbelly, Cowgate – Belly Dancer (Venue 61) 5.45pm, 4th till 28th August (excluding 16th)
This is a visceral, uncompromising cabaret which straddles performance art and dark comedy. London-based performer, writer, and dramaturge Sian Clarke’s furious one-woman feminist show will go full throttle, tackling issues in contemporary society like sexism and violence head on, with zingers, uncomfortable home truths, and baths full of blood in the offing. She has stated that ‘There will be barking. There will be screaming. There will be blood.’
FINAL BABY GIRL!
Assembly George Square Studios The Flick at Underground (Venue 17) 7pm, 4th till 28th August (excluding 8th,15th, 22nd)
With a punkish energy and penchant for gore, bearded drag queen Baby Lame’s Final Baby Girl! is a slice of performance art that draws upon the slasher horror film trope of ‘final girl standing’ and takes it to unexpected places, with original songs, film clips, and audience participation. Baby Lame, a whirling dervish of fetish wear, blond candyfloss wig and attitude, selects willing victims from the crowd to help her channel the gals who see off the axe-wielding maniacs. That it’s not for the squeamish goes without saying, but it all promises to be immensely good, filthy fun.
Traverse Theatre, Various times, 4th till 28th August (excluding 8th, 15th and 22nd)
‘Her eyes are green like guacamole’ – now that’s a descriptor to appeal to the millennials. The romcom will never die, especially if they keep giving us such great ideas for chat up lines. This is a story full of queer joy, original live music, and heart-warming hilarity.
Traverse Theatre, Various times, 5th till 28th August (excluding 8th, 15th and 22nd)
‘Frequent graphic references to sex and drug use. Partial nudity.’ And that’s just the warnings. Calvin has vowed to start a new chapter – to leave his abusive boyfriend and ‘explore’ the world. The relationship between Calvin and his driving instructor (a psychotherapist in a previous life) is frustratingly wonderful and real and hilarious –they are both almost as astonishingly annoying yet lovable as each other but Calvin just about pips her to the post.
When he finally passes his driving test (12th attempt) the world is his oyster – and with his new albeit rusty partner in crime Wilf, a Volkswagen Polo, nothing is off limits. A must for fans of 80s power ballads and comedies that trick you into feeling your feelings.